Taoyuan Leopard's Filipino-American forward Caelan Tiongson said Wednesday it will be an honor to have the chance to play in front of the city's Filipino basketball fans in the T1 LEAGUE's inaugural season.
The 29-year-old Tiongson, who spent two seasons in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), is one of three players in the six-team T1 LEAGUE with Filipino heritage.
The city of Taoyuan in northern Taiwan has the country's greatest number of Southeast Asian migrant workers, totaling 115,057 people, including 33,271 from the Philippines, according to Ministry of Labor data as of the end of September.
And Tiongson was keen to emphasize how much he was looking forward to performing and interacting with his fellow compatriots when playing for the Leopards.
"I would be honored to have Filipino fans attend our games in Taoyuan, and I would love to talk and take pictures with them after games," Tiongson, who is currently undergoing mandatory quarantine, told CNA via text.
Filipino basketball fans in Taiwan have earned a reputation as passionate supporters, in particular when it comes to seeing one of their countrymen suit up.
The fans' passion is something Tiongson knows from his stint playing for the Alab Pilipinas in the 2018-2019 season of the ABL.
"When I played in the Philippines, I always felt love that I will always appreciate," Tiongson said. "I am very proud of my Filipino heritage."
Filipinos are hardworking and he loves the passion that they have for basketball, Tiongson said.
He also expressed his excitement to Taiwanese fans in an online recording, drumming up support for the Leopards.
"I've been working really hard to be ready for our first season, and I know your support is going to be huge for our success. I can't wait to learn more about Taiwanese culture and to make Taiwan my second home," Tiongson said.
Tiongson is making a return to the hardwood two years after announcing he was hanging up his sneakers for good.
Fans will have the first chance to see Tiongson in action since his original retirement from basketball in October, 2019 when the Leopards take on the New Taipei CTBC DEA at New Taipei's Xinzhuang Gymnasium Dec. 11.
Brett Su (???), Taoyuan Leopards general manager, said he believed Tiongson would attract many Filipino fans to his games.
"He has the looks and he also has the basketball skills. I am very much looking forward to him bringing over his influence to the Taoyuan Leopards," Su said.
Bobo Liu (???), Taoyuan Leopards scouting consultant, said one of Tiongson's qualities that attracted his attention was his good character and solid movements on the court.
The 1.97-meter tall Tiongson averaged 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his professional debut in the 2017-18 ABL season, when he played for the Chong Son Kung Fu, before transferring to the San Miguel Alab Pilipinas the following season.
He has been inactive since he announced his retirement from basketball at the age of 27.
The T1 LEAGUE tips off Nov. 27.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel